As of this week, only seven months remain until the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil. Later this month, the countdown clocks will show fewer than 200 days remaining until the big event.
And yet, six of the tournament’s 12 stadiums remain unfinished, and airport upgrades are well behind schedule. Other infrastructure projects, meanwhile, have been either significantly altered or cancelled altogether.
In a blog post earlier this year, reputed Brazil-watcher Andrew Downie wrote that “five cities—Brasilia, Fortaleza, Manaus, Salvador and Sao Paulo—won’t have the promised tram lines, express lanes for buses or metro links ready, according to Brazil’s Federal Audits Court.”
The costs of hosting the World Cup, however, continue to increase.
Once pegged at less than $1 billion US—and much of it supposedly from private funders—the price of stadium construction and upgrades has now eclipsed $3.5 billion, according to Forbes, and when the various infrastructure schemes are added to the tally, Bloomberg estimates the final number will surpass $14.5 billion.
But Aldo Rebelo, the country’s Minister of Sport, has continued to insist the World Cup will provide a “lasting legacy of economic growth,” and just over a year ago he told the BBC he expected the tournament to boost Brazil’s economy by around $90 billion.
Then there are the 3.6 million jobs, both short-term and long-term, the competition is expected to generate, according to Bloomberg—the same number the 2016 Olympics will likely require.
To that end, it’s important to view Brazil’s spending in the context of both the World Cup and Olympic Games as the cost of the two events will be almost identical.
But it’s the World Cup that is first on the agenda, and as the world—nevermind Brazilians themselves—found out last June, the cost of putting it on has been more than merely financial.
During the 2013 Confederations Cup, as it began to sink in that tens of billions of Reais were being spent on stadiums while transit fares continued to go up and funding for schools and hospitals remained stagnant, at least 80 Brazilian cities were rocked by protests as citizens demanded better social services.
“We need more investment in schools and hospitals—not monumental works,” a Cuiaba resident told Bloomberg even before the Confederations Cup began.
And just last month, footballer-turned-congressman Romario called for his fellow politicians to “wake up,” adding that continued demonstrations were they way for social issues to get the attention they deserve.
“You see hospitals with no beds; you see hospitals with people on the floor,” he told the New York Times last month.
“You see schools that don’t have lunch for kids; you see schools with no air-conditioning...You see buildings and schools with no accessibility for people who are handicapped.”
What Romario and many of his countrymen have seen are lavish venues in places that likely won’t be able to sustain them when the World Cup is over as well as a cash-grab by FIFA, who invested nothing in Brazil to stage its signature event but will leave when it’s finished with considerable profits.
“FIFA got what it came for: money,” the 47-year-old said. “They don’t care about what is going to be left behind.”